Poetry for Strangers is about finding inspiration in community, in people, in the chance encounters of everyday life. PFS suggests that every person can be a “muse” of a poem. Every week of this year I will ask a stranger for a single word and then write a poem inspired by the word. I invite you to do the same.

Share your poem on this week’s word!


“I am collecting words for titles of paintings!” Hindi told me after I asked for a word. She pulled up her phone and showed me a long typed note. “Entropy.” (Her friend, Lois, was sitting with her. Lois said: “My theory is that entropy must’ve been invented by the father of a three-year-old.”) “Codex vitae,” Hindi continued. “Will a phrase work? Or oh, this one! Quotidian. Capers – I love capers, both the food and the act.” (Lois: “I have a friend who named her daughter Caper.”) “Edges. I’ve been thinking about edges. Artists paint edges.” There was a whole list of words. And she finally chose one.

The Stranger: Hindi

Her Word: Scattering (“used in a good way”)

The poem I wrote:

What mosaic of making is happening here? What scattering of color, the old math of objects: 0: rattle; bib; Pinocchio doll with extra noses 8: technology; neon shorts; math 15: keys: will do anything; who has longest legs? 17: denim, broken watch, winterfresh gum, curfew 22: skipped up and arrived here; kitchen; dog 29: diploma; star-chart; magazines; morality; good hair > dowry 32: repeated acts; bath; not a baby anymore; un-dog 35: furniture, my own; too many mugs; trees with bare branches 40: each shelf of year makes a new place to paint: how to recognize objects worth living for 44: this thing happened which always happens when we expand and say yes 51: each object a cracked-from-earth new piece of life 58: this sign that once we were older than we ever knew 64: the opposite of a crime scene; what life we have, unmurdered, rocking still into a world of things 77: a stove; someplace to make soup; legs, still working 81: tables and chairs, empty as Mars 94: awaiting creation.

The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.